In the post-cold war period, after the collapse of the U.S.S.R when the United States claimed the status of the only superpower and acted as one by unilaterally invading the countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, the neocons who were schooled in the art of campaigns against socialism, national liberation and working class struggle in Europe and Asia, found fertile ground in two commanding posts: the administration of George W. Bush and the vast media channels of communication. The primary goals and cause celebre of these hard-core conservatives, who “numbered fewer than 100”, according to Joshua Muravchik, an ideologue in the American Enterprise Institute, was to produce all the justifications and plans for the U.S. war on Iraq and the feasibility of a fast victory to serve as a stepping stone for a U.S. war against Iran.
At the pinnacle of this shock troop stood all those who served in the Republican administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and in the conservative media. To lay bare the system of beliefs of U.S. neoconservatism, it is essential to examine the ideas held and the official positions occupied by some of the ringleaders of the group. Among them is Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist-turned politician who has served as a member of the board of advisors of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a contributing editor of the New Republic and Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, a co-signer of the 1998 open letter to President Clinton by the Project for a New American Century and a former editorial board member of the publication The National Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, another neocon ideologue.
The letter raised the specter of Iraq’s possession of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and drew the conclusion that the “only acceptable strategy” was “removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.” It also argued that in the absence of that, the security of “our friends and allies like Israel, and a significant portion of the world’s oil supply” would be threatened. Charles Krauthammer has held various positions in the administrations of Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
This phenomena cannot be over-stated that neocons received their training during the decades of cold war, supporting corporate domination over laboring classes and the third world countries. After the fall of the Soviet Union when the neoconservative movement lost its core-enemy and fell in disarray, Charles Krauthammer wrote an essay in 1990 Foreign Affairs magazine advocating the direction that U.S. foreign policy must take. That article later on came to serve as a guideline for the neocons’ agenda, which ultimately became an ideological cornerstone for the Iraq war and George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The article, dubbed as the “Unipolar Moment” put forth the idea that the U.S. should seize the opportunity and unilaterally impose a new world order by imposing its agenda on the world. He argued that in the period following the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union, the main enemies of the U.S. consist of “small aggressive states armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and possessing the means to deliver them.” (Foreign Affairs, Winter 1990-1991).
After 9/11, Krauthammer’s agenda served as the basis of a program for the neoconservative ideologues who gathered around the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which in turn was used as a directive for writing a series of letters to the White House, including the one on September 20, 2001 to President Bush that along with Krauthammer was signed by a group of neocons such as Elliot Cohen, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, William Kristol and a host of other social conservatives and religious right personalities. Charles Krauthammer, who is currently a regular commentator on Fox News and other right wing channels, this false prophet of the American Century, does not only enjoy war on smaller nations, but he also appreciates torture of defenseless individuals captive in the American dungeons.
In his Dec. 5, 2005 cover story in the Weekly Standard, Krauthammer argued that torture of the foreign detainees in U.S. prisons is not only defensible, but in fact necessary and morally acceptable.
Following the events of 9/11 and prior to the invasion of Iraq, the neocons positioned in the White House, in the State and Defense Department were all on the offense, repeating exuberantly the half-truth catchword that the best defense lies in the pursuit of an offensive strategy, which became the cornerstone of the pre-emptive doctrine. The former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went as far as saying that the U.S. military machine with the backing of an ever larger defense budget is capable of fighting and winning wars not only in one country, but in two or even three simultaneously. The dimming trace of such a grand-standing could be observed today in Senator McCain’s posturing that “we are winning in Iraq”, and advocating that the U.S. must maintain permanent military bases in that country, even when it goes against the will of the people of Iraq. We must assume that is a lesson in American democracy and its sense of international justice.
The glorious though short-lived days of the neocons came fast to an end with the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. Soon after the aerial carpet-bombing, the U.S. military machine was met not with a bouquet of flowers, but with an armed resistance, which resulted in high rates of U.S. troop casualties. This encounter was unexpected by the ordinary soldiers who had been lectured by their officers about the just cause of their “mission.” The ever-increasing U.S. troop casualties and the lack of its control over Iraq’s geo-politics, soon gave rise to sharp criticism of Donald Rumsfeld’s military doctrine of a smaller but fast moving army equipped with superior technology. By then there was enough blame to go around between the neo-con officers in the White House, the State and the Defense Departments.
Failure of a Doctrine
Since October 7, 2001, the day the U.S. air force bombarded Afghanistan, about seven years ago, and since March 19, 2003, the horrible day Washington violated the sovereignty of Iraq and bombed the historical city of Baghdad, soon to be five years of brutal occupation, the U.S. policies and their neoconservative architects have come under sharp criticism by the people at home and those abroad. In the process these agents of imperial domination have lost credibility, if they had any, and their lucrative positions in the highest governmental offices and in the corporate media that so enthusiastically supported the annihilation of a 5000-year old civilization in Mesopotamia.
The first and most influential neo-conservative who became a casualty of this doctrine was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who was disgracefully booted by George W. Bush and asked to fade into oblivion, while carrying away tens of millions of dollars which were received as kickbacks from the arms and mercenary contractors. The White House announcement that Rumsfeld was leaving Bush’s cabinet came only one day after the Republican Party suffered major loses in the mid-term election of November 8, 2006.
Less than a month later, the outspoken neocon, John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. was told to evacuate the post and look for a new job. He was more of a slave-driver than a country’s diplomat in dealing with Russia, China and the European community in connection with Iran’s nuclear issue. Bolton became more of a liability to the U.S., which was preparing to shift gears and be more accommodating to the European politics.
The third, but not the least significant, fall of a neoconservative was the ousting of Paul Wolfowitz, another architect of the war in Iraq, from his position as President of the World Bank, for authorizing a $60,000 salary increase for his girl friend, working under his supervision. As deputy secretary of defense from 2000 to 2005, working under Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz helped develop the plan and public rationale for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He was neither liked by the European statesmen who opposed the U.S. war in Iraq, nor by some Republicans who attributed the U.S. loss of credibility to the mischievous plans of the neo-cons. After Wolfowitz lost his job as head of the World Bank, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., once said “that maybe we give Paul Wolfowitz a new job and send him over [to Iraq] as mayor, since the neocons got us in over there.” Wolfowitz is a long-term advocate of “pre-emption” – a military policy to strike first to eliminate a presumed threat, even if the evidence cannot be proven objectively.
During the last year, especially since the U.S. decided to join the European dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program, and almost at the same time gave the signal to Iraq’s government to invite Iran to a tripartite discussion over Iraq’s security and finally the appearance of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report admitting that Iran had suspended its (non-existent) nuclear weapons program in Fall 2003, all in all made the overall atmosphere hostile for the political habitat of the U.S. and the European neo-conservatives. Therefore, this group of reactionary politicians had to either migrate or return to hibernation.
Absolutely there is no doubt among the U.S. political class that the neoconservatives are in disarray, though not yet defeated, and furthermore, the U.S. policies with regard to the Middle East in general and Iran in particular are either in retreat or undergoing deep re-examination. It is not hard to see that Washington’s old plans for a new Middle East – drawn before 2000 with the aim of “regime change” to suit U.S. hegemonic interests – have badly failed.Neocons on the Exit Ramp
The latest neocon on line to exit the pressure chambers of George W. Bush’s administration was Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, who on January 18, 2008, just 16 days following the publication of the NIE Report, resigned from the third highest-ranking post at the U.S. State Department. Burns, representing U.S. imperialist interests in relation to Iran, made every effort to bring pressure on Russia, China and the major European countries to impose heavy economic, trade and diplomatic sanctions on Iran. But fortunately he was unsuccessful in that regard. Burns, by some mainstream press, is painted as a dove standing up to Vice President Cheney, who dreams of attacking Iran before the end of President George W. Bush’s term. Steve Clemons on www.huffingtonpost.com writes that among many political subjects, “…except perhaps Afghanistan, Nick Burns and Co. have been on one side of constructive efforts to stabilize global affairs and push forward positive ‘American global engagement’- and Cheney’s acolytes have been on another.” So much for good cop-bad cop.
In her piece in the Times on Line, entitled “Decline and Fall of the Neocons”, Sara Baxter writes “If Bush and Dick Cheney, his vice-president, are the last men standing with responsibility for the Iraq war it is only because they are protected by their four-year terms of office. One former Bush stalwart told me: “If we had a parliamentary system, Bush would have lost a vote of confidence and have resigned by now.”
As we all know there are only 10 months left to George W. Bush’s tenancy in the White House and a great majority of Americans, with the exception of a delusional minority symbolized by such militants as John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, are convinced that there is very little chance for the U.S. to win the war in Iraq. “On North Korea, and Iran, with no real options at hand,” writes Charles Krauthammer, an old neo-conservative, “the Bush administration heads to the finish line doing what Senator George Aiken once suggested for Vietnam: Declare victory and go home. With no good options available, those decisions are entirely understandable.”
Now that the neo-cons have been ousted, one by one, from their positions of power, influence and easy kickbacks, the Democratic Party has an easy ride and the base of the Republican Party is left with two unexciting and mediocre figures - McCain and Huckabee - to represent it in 2008. This should be a lesson to the Democratic Party leadership that if it drags its feet, continuing the war and adding to the pain of the American society, next time the people may decide to trash both parties into the dustbin of history and create a non-corporate party.
About the author: Ardeshir Ommani is a writer and an activist in the anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for many years, including against the Vietnam War. Ardeshir is a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) which strives to build a movement promoting peace and preventing a U.S.-led war on Iran. See www.progressiveportals.com/aifc, where news and analysis of U.S.-Iran’s relations can be found, along with observations of life in Iran based on recent visits to Iran. Ardeshir helped launch the successful www.StopWarOnIran.org campaign, the very first Iran internet anti-war campaign. In the 1960's, he was a co-founder of the Iranian Students Association (ISA), which contributed to the struggle against the Shah of Iran, a U.S. puppet. Two of his recent articles: “Emergence of a United Front Against Bush" can be viewed at www.mathaba.net and “U.S. Hawks Dive for Cover” at www.payvand.com.
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